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Could Peugeot’s new electric compact crossover become an EV sales heavyweight?

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Having been the meekest of bit-part players in the emerging electric car market until only a couple of years ago, the Stellantis Group, parent company to the Peugeot e-2008 that is the suject of this road test, has lately shown itself to be very serious indeed about a battery-powered future. It recently announced its first dedicated EV-only model architecture, the eVMP, which is due to sire its first production car within three years.

Until then, the roll-out of what we might think of as the group’s advance wave of compact electric vehicles continues. As well as the Peugeot , from the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense to the Vauxhall Corsa-e, we’ve seen and tested several of its members already. And between the Vauxhall Mokka-e and at least one model from Citroën, there are several more to come.

I can’t see this car taking too many people out of Kia and Hyundai EVs, but if the 39kWh Nissan Leaf has a long enough range for you, the e-2008 does too – and it has more style about it than the Nissan

What chance, then, once this advance guard of zero-emissions models is finally complete, that this week’s road test subject, the Peugeot e-2008, will be the keystone of its commercial success? It’s a car in a growing market niche from a brand on the up, and with an in-demand bodystyle, that promises everyday practicality and usability that no electric supermini could quite touch.

It’s the substance of that thinking that we’ll be scrutinising over the next few pages. The e-2008 is, like all of these PSA Group electric models, part of a wider model range, and so there’s no new model identity to introduce ourselves to and we have a decent idea of what to expect from it in terms of size, layout and practicality. But will being so closely related to a combustion-engined car, as well as so many other sibling EVs, ultimately be a strength or a weakness for it?

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The e-2008 line-up at a glance

A six-tier derivative line-up for a car that comes in only one mechanical specification and power output is rare, but since the e-2008 range mirrors that of the regular Peugeot 2008, you can forgive it. The Premium levels add a handful of items over their nearest relations in any case, and Allure Premium is where the 10.0in touchscreen enters the mix.

 

DESIGN & STYLING

Peugeot e-2008 2020 road test review - hero side

It’s styled in idiomatic SUV tones, but the Peugeot e-2008 doesn’t really have the silhouette of an SUV.

While the original 2008 of 2013 had a taller, more stacked outline, the new car has grown in length by nearly 150mm and has a roofline up to 25mm lower to the ground. Shave as much again from that roofline, take another inch out of the length of the suspension springs and lower its bonnet just a little and it could pass for a normally proportioned C-segment hatchback. It will be evidence if it sells, just as the Ford Puma was, that people may actually only want a dash of SUV DNA in their next compact crossover.

A body-coloured radiator grille makes the e-2008 easy to spot from the front (it’s black on regular 2008s). The lion badge on the front has a dichroic finish for the EV too, making it change colour depending on the light reflected on it.

The car uses PSA’s modular e-CMP model platform, but furthermore it shares a 134bhp AC permanent-magnet electric motor and 50kWh lithium ion battery with the rest of the group’s related electric vehicles. It has a steel monocoque chassis that confers front-wheel drive, strut-type front suspension and a torsion beam rear axle with a Panhard rod for better lateral wheel control.

However, the e-2008 has a wheelbase 65mm longer than that of the related Peugeot e-208 supermini. On Peugeot’s specification sheet, it’s recorded as weighing some 250kg more than the lightest combustion-engined 2008, and Millbrook’s scales put its actual kerb weight at almost 100kg heavier still (1638kg).

So, doesn’t an EV of that size and weight need more power and greater on-board battery capacity? Well, we’ll find out. Given that neither the Kia e-Niro nor the Hyundai Kona Electric weighed a great deal more when we tested them and both had markedly more power and energy storage available to them, it seems a perfectly valid question to ask.

As far as charging the battery is concerned, the e-2008 is at least competitive with its key rivals, permitting DC rapid charging at a rate of up to 100kW, in which time an 80% charge can be achieved in half an hour. The charging port is on the nearside rear quarter, which will suit owners who consider it safer to reverse into parking bays and drive forwards out of them, just as we do.

INTERIOR

Peugeot e-2008 2020 road test review - cabin

The Peugeot e-2008’s driver’s seat doesn’t seem particularly highly set. Once you’re in, assuming you like a fairly low cushion height (our test car had manual adjustment), you won’t find the driving position very upright or bent-legged, and nor will you find a particularly lofty vantage point. This might be a disappointment for some, of course.

Meanwhile, the same slightly obstructive oversized cabin sills we found when we tested the DS 3 Crossback feature again here. You have to remember to lift your feet over them as you board, but it’s only a minor annoyance.

The dials are set high and quite far back so as to be visible over the wheel. Perhaps the 3D effect is meant to reduce that gap, but it seemed gimmicky to some.

Our test car had Peugeot’s Cielo opening sunroof fitted (optional on all but the range-topping GT model), which robs some front-row head room. If you have it as a taller driver, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to use the full range of seat base height adjustment.

Whether you have it or avoid it, however, second-row head room will be unchanged. It’s just about respectable for adults travelling back there, although leg room is tighter than taller people might like. Kids in booster seats can be accommodated just fine, although only by removing the rear head restraints, which is a slightly fiddly job.

Your first impression is of an interior with a bit of lavish material flourish and flair. The GT Line trim of our test car added tri-material part-leather seats and lime-green contrasting stitching, which were welcome enriching ambient influences. But we could have tested a cheaper derivative and still had a car with leather-faced controls, Peugeot’s 10.0in touchscreen infotainment system and its 3D digital instrument display. Whatever trim level they opt for, then, e-2008 owners are likely to consider perceived quality and on-board technology selling points for the car, and quite justifiably so.

The car’s control layout remains contentious. The i-Cockpit credo forces you to position the steering wheel low, as if sprouting from between your knees, leaving room for you to view the instruments over the top of the rim. The good news is that the 2008’s layout seems to accommodate the philosophy better than other current Peugeots.

The driving position doesn’t feel strange or unnatural for long, then, and by the time you’re used to those holographic instruments (which some testers found distracting but others quite liked, and of which the layout can be adjusted to taste), it’s likely you’ll have acclimatised.

Peugeot e-2008 infotainment and sat-nav

Every e-2008 gets a touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone mirroring, but Peugeot only lavishes factory-fit sat-nav at Active Premium trim level. You need Allure Premium trim to get the fully furnished 10.0in touchscreen set-up, while Peugeot’s Focal premium sound system is available only on top-of-the-line cars at an additional cost of £590.

Our test car had the 10.0in touchscreen and standard stereo. Despite this larger screen and prime placement on top of the dashboard, the infotainment system still isn’t the most intuitive. There’s a line of capacitive shortcut keys a few inches below, plus a second line of actual buttons, but it’s odd to have to hop back and forth between the screen and the console when flipping menus, while too many functions that should be one-touch operations – such as changing the HVAC mode or muting the sat-nav – need three and four prods to accomplish. It’s a good-looking system but not the easiest to get on with.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

Peugeot e-2008 2020 road test review - electric motor

We’ve been led towards high expectations of electric cars where performance is concerned, but it’s inevitable that as the EV market fills out and electricity seems an ever more common and normal way to power a typical family car, so will those expectations be tempered. In that respect, you could say that the Peugeot e-2008 is something of a force for normalisation.

Its acceleration won’t take your breath away. It responds very keenly, and as cleanly, smoothly and progressively relative to pedal position as any EV, but it needs almost 9.0sec to sweep from 30mph to 70mph – as you might when entering a motorway or leaving a built-up area – and 9.5sec to crack 60mph from rest.

Peugeot prefers to put the charging socket where you would find the fuel filler, which is another way of making things familiar for EV newbies. It also makes parking safer. The best charging rate is 100kW via a DC CCS connection.

In both of those respects, several similarly priced EVs we’ve tested these past three years have been quite a lot quicker – and the related, 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol DS 3 Crossback we tested only last year was a useful margin quicker also.

And so 134bhp does indeed feel a bit underwhelming, on occasion, for a 1.6-tonne EV. Not around town, but above 50mph, the e-2008 needs plenty of encouragement to move more quickly than the average car in the morass of British traffic. Still, it responds to your right foot in a pleasing way, because it does so very smartly and precisely. In everyday motoring, it would be getting on down the road while the engines or automatic gearboxes of some regular family cars might still be lacing up their running shoes. Even so, except perhaps at particularly low speeds, the e-2008 isn’t really compelling or thrusty-feeling to drive.

There are three driving modes on offer, with full power from the motor available only in Sport, along with a slightly recalibrated accelerator pedal. Brake energy regeneration is relatively mild, and while the effect can be dialled up when using B instead of D on the transmission, the e-2008 clearly isn’t the kind of EV in which a one-pedal urban driving style might be easily adopted.

Paddle-based adjustable recuperation modes might have made for more efficient recycling of energy and a slightly more involving drive overall, but if Peugeot set out rather to make the driving experience simple and familiar for those switching to an EV, it has achieved its aim well enough.

Strangely enough, the e-2008’s tendency to regenerate doesn’t seem to be increased by gentle braking, and yet its brake pedal does have the soft, stodgy feel of a car with such a blended braking system, which can make it tricky to slow smoothly from higher speeds. Its stopping power is respectable enough, though – our test figures having been adversely affected by a slightly damp surface.

RIDE & HANDLING

Peugeot e-2008 2020 road test review - on the road front

The Peugeot e-2008’s chassis is as benign as any you’ll find on a modern compact crossover, and it makes for a car that’s pretty blameless and agreeable to drive in the broadest terms. But just as its powertrain lacks the ability to go beyond the outright performance capabilities of a pretty ordinary compact family five-door, so does its handling provide as little to praise on the road as there is to criticise.

It’s relatively agile when manoeuvring and around town. Still, it was puzzling to some testers that Peugeot should attempt to contrive some pointiness into the handling mix of car with a steering wheel as dinky as a sideplate, only to partner that wheel with a steering rack that, at 2.8 turns between locks, is probably 20% less direct than is now typical of a car this size. So while the orbit of the wheel is smaller than it might be, you still have to turn the e-2008’s wheel a little further than you expect to in order to negotiate roundabouts and T-junctions.

The e-2008’s chassis is as inoffensive as they come, so it’s rather confusing why Peugeot made the steering so pointy; performance isn’t stomach-churning, pleasingly.

All the while, you can perceive the compromises that Peugeot has admitted in order to make the steering system work through such a tiddly tiller. The rack feels slightly elastic and over-assisted, even though it’s well enough weighted to make positioning the car easy while you’re turning in. When you’re feeding off lock, though, there’s a bit too much positivity and self-centring action to make the car corner intuitively, which contributes to the pervading sense that the rack’s power assistance is operating at the limit of its powers but is always on a hiding to nothing when it comes to adding sporting edge to the car’s driving experience.

While the e-2008 has decent lateral body control, it, like so many EVs, can’t afford particularly high mechanical grip levels. It corners neatly and securely and has well-tuned electronic aids that keep it on your intended path even when you’re hurrying it along in slippery conditions, although it leans on them quite hard at times.

The car’s vertical composure is less consistent, becoming a little bit soft and fidgeting at quicker cross-country pace. Some steering corruption is apparent when you open the throttle all the way with a bit of steering angle applied, obliging you to keep close tabs on where you’re pointing the front wheels.

Assisted driving notes

The standard active safety specification of the e-2008 includes a lane-departure warning system, as well as automatic emergency braking (AEB) that can detect pedestrians around town as well as cars stopping in front of you in heavy traffic. The AEB system’s functionality expands to include cyclist detection with midrange models. And if you have a top-of-the-range GT (or a lowlier trim with the right option box ticked), you get a car with blind-spot monitoring, active cruise control and full-on lane-keeping assistance.

Peugeot starts in the right place with both lane aids by making them fully switchable and by keeping them deactivated once you’ve switched them off. They’re not the subtlest or smoothest such systems when operating, making you feel as if there’s a nervous driving instructor aboard. They may serve a purpose to some, though.

Comfort and isolation

Like so many affordable EVs, the e-2008 has a ride that’s entirely respectable, but it has been left a little way short of the ability to impress you with its suppleness or noise suppression. Part of that perception may be attributable to a relatively quiet electric motor on board, of course, and yet there were several sources of noise and upset you could point to in our test car that adversely affected its comfort levels.

The e-2008’s suspension comes up just a little bit short for compliance over bigger bumps around town. The twist-beam rear axle thunks and protests just enough for you to notice over speed bumps, while the audible ‘sproing’ evident from all corners over drain covers and the like speaks of the necessarily firm bushings and anti-roll bar settings that you might expect of a relatively heavy, high-riding car.

Wind isolation is harder to fault, mind, and the comfort afforded by the driver’s seat is good but for a lack of extendable under-thigh support. There’s a second reason to think twice before specifying the sunroof: the one fitted to our test car creaked and chirruped on even roads, as if its rubber seals hadn’t quite been seated correctly. It’s the kind of build quality foible that Peugeot is likely to solve early on in the production cycle of the 2008, but on a car like the e-2008, where every squeak is an annoying one, it needs attending to quickly.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Peugeot e-2008 2020 road test review - hero front

A starting price of less than £30,000 for a genuine four-seat EV (after the £3000 government subsidy) is still pretty compelling in 2020, and particularly so when that car is as easy on the eye and pleasant to travel in as the e-2008. That kind of pricing takes the car out of reach of some of the rivals mentioned overleaf on value for money, and it should be a very viable choice for those for whom the car’s range is sufficient.

For those with more buying power, however, range may be an issue. Our testing suggests you’ll get just shy of 150 miles from a full charge in mixed everyday use, dropping to 135 miles at a consistent motorway cruise but rising to as much as 170 or 180 miles at a steady 50mph and around town.

Keep your sights low when choosing a trim level. Active Premium cars can be had for less than £30,000 – about £300 per month on a PCP deal with a decent deposit – and come with most of the items you’ll need

That may be fine to someone whose only realistic alternative is a 39kWh Nissan Leaf or an even shorter-legged MG ZS EV, but it looks meagre compared with the genuine 250-plus miles offered by cars from Kia and Hyundai. It’s also unlikely to make very many people comfortable with the notion of an e-2008 as their only car, which, given the brief of the modern do-it-all crossover, does seem a notable failing.

 

VERDICT

Peugeot e-2008 2020 road test review - static

While it clearly had the potential to appeal to a wider audience than most electric cars, the Peugeot e-2008 feels a bit held back by the one-size-fits-all EV strategy adopted by the PSA Group.

If there had been greater modularity about Peugeot’s new battery-electric-car toolkit and it could have lavished just 10% or 20% more power and range on this car, it would have given the product planners at Kia, Hyundai, Volkswagen and elsewhere a great deal of pause for thought. As it is, an average real-world range of just under 150 miles and performance that barely escapes the ordinary makes the e-2008 just a little too easy to dismiss.

There’s a bit too much Gallic quirkiness about the e-2008 for my liking. The showy but unintuitive infotainment system, the funny instruments and the contrived driving position would all end up irritating, I suspect. But there’s a decent car underneath it all.

The rest of the package certainly deserved better, because this car is practical, comfortable and dynamically decent enough to be worth considering. It’s handsome with it, too, and has a pleasant, inviting cabin that’s certainly spacious enough for everyday use by the average family.

To those who are already confident with a sub-200-mile range, the e-2008 should appeal strongly – but it’s unlikely to have sufficient usability to set the EV segment alight.

 

Peugeot e-2008 First drives